No matter how all the lawsuits and flame wars end up, “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” as we know it will soon come to an end. But Monday night felt a little bit like a return to old times, when the show was dependable, paint-drying-cutely entertainment.
It helped that Kate was doing something normal: trying to organize her basement. ''We moved here, and basically, you know, the dumping grounds… a backscratcher, blocks, high chair, a table. Rubber pants, what in the world?'' In a nutshell: everything all families collect over the years, multiplied by eight.
We've all been there. My family's two-car garage can barely fit one car from decades of accumulated family junk history. Sure, Kate's dumping ground is a whole lot bigger than most peoples', but having more than everyone else just means you make a bigger mess than everyone else. (A wise man said it cooler.) Maybe, in its final episodes, Jon & Kate has accidentally found a thesis: the more you have, the more you lose.
Not that having more is all bad! Kate was helped in her clean-up by a pair of Professional Organizers. (When my parents wanted to clean up the garage, they just rented a dumpster for my brother and I. Though I'm guessing the Professionals didn't accidentally throw away any priceless family heirlooms. Sorry, Mom!)
The Professionals, Paula Davis and Diane Albright, had a four-step process which I won't bore you with. Kate was thankful to have help: ''I'm the only one that cares about organization. Everyone else is out to sabotage me.'' Paula and Diane proceeded to building shelves, reboxing clothes, and generally bring order to storage chaos. I suspect this episode functioned as a backdoor pilot for their upcoming TLC Extreme Organization show, probably titled ''Box Queens'' or ''Sort It Out!'' or ''Shelf Wife'' or something.
Gosselin trivia! The hospital let the sextuplets keep their bath buckets, and the buckets still have a use years later: ''Great surface area, kids can hit them quite nicely,'' said Kate, describing the effectiveness of the Vomit Bucket. ''In our house, the vomit bucket has become an honor. 'Why does she get a vomit bucket?' The life of sextuplets… I don't have the psychology skills to explain that. Is that odd or what?''
Her question brings up a larger question. Did we like watching “Jon & Kate” because their massive family served as a loud metaphor for our average 2.5-child families? Just as “Battlestar Galactica” represents post-9/11 America and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” represents post-Industrial Revolution capitalism, did Jon, Kate, and the Plus Eight represent our own post-Disney, post-Dr. Spock kid-centric national parental moment? The kids in your family probably don't fight over a vomit bucket, but I'm sure they do fight over something strange and meaningless and equally impossible to explain to an outsider.
Did we watch the Gosselins because they were just like us? Or was it because they completely weren't like us? Because the sight of two parents whose lives were wholly hijacked, outnumbered four-to-one, by kids they could barely control gave us hope that the path would be easier in our own attempts at childrearing? What did we want from Jon and Kate: schadenfreude or catharsis? Clowns or sad clowns?
Land of forgotten toysOut came the old toys! ''Here's Kitty-Cat! Hannah's gonna freak out,'' said Kate. And freak out she did! Though naturally, after she found Kitty-Cat, the other kids chimed in with ''Where's Hippo?'' and ''Where's my stuffed animal giraffe?'' ''You know how I feel about stuffed animals,'' said Kate. (I don't.) The kids were in old-toy nirvana. Favorite moment: Joel used a toy axe called Teetee to slice through everything in sight, including his siblings and a stuffed blue butterfly.
Kate found the Mady and Cara's first-year calendars. Kate had lovingly adorned practically every day with minute details: ''Every time they blinked I put it down…We only had two kids, can you tell?'' She pointed to one day: ''Mady learns a happy shriek, and it's ear piercing.'' Eight-year-old Mady demonstrated.
''I think I've waited my whole life for my true love: the label maker,'' said Kate. Lucky you, Kate, you hired Paula and Diane, the Home Organization Divas! When they gave Kate a label maker, she let out a happy shriek, and it was ear piercing.
While the Shelf-Help Gurus worked away in the storage area, Kate got the kids together for an assignment as important as it was hilarious. ''When it's time to disperse toilet paper… I assign them bathrooms to do the toilet paper in.'' The kids enjoyed doing it, which proves definitively that children are lame adorable.
The kids all played dress-up. Joel was unhappy with his knight costume, and he chased Aaden trying to get his penguin costume back. ''We're going fake trick or treating!'' yelled Cara triumphantly. (Aaden: ''Can you be a space penguin?'' Absolutely, kid, this is America!)
The Professionals managed to complete the work. Kate looked around her clean, organized room. ''Wonder how long it will stay like this,'' she said. ''I just love to clean out and make new, so maybe this was symbolic.'' Maybe. ''But I'm not done yet,'' she threatened, and laughed and laughed and laughed.